One of the benefits of living in the UAE is that there is very little crime. I don’t worry when I walk into parking garages after dark. Once I valet parked my car at the Crowne Plaza on SZR, leaving my wallet on the console. It had all my ID, my passport with my residency visa, credit cards about $60 and 500 dirhams. I didn’t even realize I had left it behind until the valet brought me my car at the end of the evening. I climbed in the car and gasped when I saw my wallet just sitting there.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed anyone but myself if there was anything missing. But there wasn’t. Everything was still intact, exactly how I had left it.

So it was a shock recently when a group of local teens — all Emiratis — were accused of randomly stabbing to death a 13-year-old who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gang inexplicably seized on the victim, stabbing him and leaving him to die in the street.

The murder has highlighted the perils of sudden wealth, a wealth that has brought an immense amount of change to the UAE in just a couple of generations. Experts in this story about the killing also speculate that the teenagers feel marginalized in their own country, one in which they are outnumbered 8 to 2. Perhaps there is confusion reconciling the values they are taught as Muslims with what they then see along the beach or in hotels here.

We’ve written much about the need to transform the schools for Emiratis here, which are ill-equipped to train a modern workforce.  One professor at the Dubai School of Government said about 10 percent of Emirati boys drop out of school by 10th grade. Like all societies drop outs then have trouble finding a place among the ranks of the employed.

“In the traditional society, they would have had more time to sit around the majlis, to be mentored by their family and their extended families,” said Prof Natasha Ridge. “In this modern era, their fathers may be busy. Some may be absent, too.”

2 thoughts on “Idle hands

  1. You know, that would be an interesting study – how being a minority in your own country would effect the youth, as well as growing up in a very strict society that still allows for “debauchery.”

  2. hey, kim. thanks for commenting! i agree. i’d like to try to find a way to write more about this through the eyes of people who might be feeling this way.

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